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Kindergarten Cognition

Kindergarten Cognition



Presentation includes historical trivia and information about presenter's role as Kindergarten teacher and information about 5 and 6 year olds' cognitive processing.

Presentation includes historical trivia and information about presenter's role as Kindergarten teacher and information about 5 and 6 year olds' cognitive processing.



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  • Not a parent, interned in 7th and 2nd grade so I knew next to nothing about early childhood education when I beganThey can’t talk, they can barely write their names, they pee their pants, they don’t know what is at the other end of the hall
  • Have someone read this quote
  • Play to 9:51
  • We do these in kinder with song, play time, learning centers
  • I’m not bragging or stating a goal. This is what really happens now in Kindergarten (at least at Legacy).
  • The rest of my presentation will focus a little bit on my teaching and a longer bit on learning, then we’ll have time for conversation and questions
  • Dynamic: FRAK at meetings
  • Children are literally different people by the end of their kinder yearThey don’t learn from long lectures
  • This is the same child

Kindergarten Cognition Kindergarten Cognition Presentation Transcript

  • Kinder cognition
  • Quick Survey
    How many of you…
    …have taught/are teaching?
    …have talked to a 5 or 6 year old recently?
    What comes to mind when you think “kindergarten”?
  • Inspiration
    A conversation with Dean Culp:
    Kris: How do you like teaching Kindergarten?
    Me: They’re like aliens!
    They pee in their pants
    They can’t tell the difference between a question and a statement
    They can barely write their names
    They don’t know what’s at the other end of the hall
  • The Plan
    Historical trivia
    Learning & Kindergarten Cognition
  • A little kindergarten trivia
    Schools for very young children first appeared in Europe in the early 19th century, the most renowned of which was opened by this guy:
    Friedrich Fröbel
  • Fröbel kindergarten in 1900s
  • The Fröbel kindergarten
    Fröbel’s kindergarten was founded on the idea that play is essential to learning academic and life skills
  • Fröbel gifts
    Part of the early kinder curriculum included these sets of blocks created by Fröbel
    “He envisaged that the Gifts will teach the child to use his (or her) environment as an educational aid; secondly, that they will give the child an indication of the connection between human life and life in nature; and finally that they will create a bond between the adult and the child who play with them” A Child's Work: Freedom and Guidance in Froebel's Educational Theory and Practice
  • Does this look familiar?
    “That early kindergarten experience with the straight line; the flat plane; the square; the triangle; the circle!”
    “The maple wood blocks . . . are in my fingers to this day.” –Frank Lloyd Wright
  • The importance of play
    Out of a 19th century belief in the importance of play emerged one of the world’s most renowned architect
    Let’s fast forward from Fröbel…
    …to the founding of parish schools in American cities
    …to the establishment of free public education
    …to the segregation and desegregation of public schools
    …to the first Head Start programs and pre-Kindergarten
    …to the testing and standards movement
    In terms of Kindergarten curriculum, where are we now?
  • The importance of play
    There is renewed interest in the value of play in developing multiple areas of learning and development (social, physical, intrapersonal)
  • Stuart Brown from the National Institute for Play, 2008 (Ted Talks)
  • The essentials of play:
    Hands on
    Free form, not guided
    Element of risk
    Curiosity, exploration
    Full body rough and tumble, dive, jump, scream, be expressive
    Social play and solo play
    We learn what’s possible and what’s not
  • Play + Standards = ?
    I try to encourage the essentials of play in my classroom at all times, during lessons as well as free play time
    But we also live in a world of standardized testing where specific learning standards must be met
    Kindergarten used to be about socialization into school life, now pre-K programs do that so that kindergarten students can focus on…
  • Play + Standards = The New 1st Grade
    All of my scholars (as we call them at my school) will leave kindergarten reading, writing, and understanding basic arithmetic concepts
  • Teaching & Learning
  • Teaching
    A little bit about me
    I graduated from the University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program in 2009
    This is my 2nd year teaching Kindergarten
    I work at Legacy Charter School in the West Lawndale community on the far west side of Chicago
  • Teaching at Legacy
    Dynamic and committed leadership: Lisa Kenner
    Pre-K through 8th grade
    Two classes per grade
    26 scholars in each class
    Two full-time instructors in each Kindergarten class
    Majority of scholars are African American
    Edubabble: 90-90-90 school
  • Teaching Kindergarten at Legacy
    8:30 – 3:30, full day
    Content areas: reading, writing, word study, handwriting, math, social studies, science, music, art, P.E., computers
  • Teaching: let’s (role) play
    Frog and Toad “interactive read aloud”
    As we read, observe what others do and imagine what it might be like to be teaching in this class.
  • Teaching
    What did you notice?
    What might be challenging?
  • Learning
  • Learning: what we know about kindergarteners
    When they turn from 5 to 6 years, increasing their entire life span by 16%
    Very interested in bodies because their physical coordination (both fine and gross motor) is increasing
    Attention spans are increasing, most children can focus on one thing for 10-15 minutes throughout the kindergarten year
    They want to be helpful and follow the rules; they seek approval and love from adults
    Beginning to understand emotions and that others react to your choices (“When you said, ‘You stank,’ it hurt her feelings.”)
    Lose teeth, need naps, poop and pee in their pants
  • Learning: cognitive development
    In children ages 4-6 the brain grows from 70-90% of its eventual adult weight
    Significant development in the frontal lobes (executive functioning) of the brain; children begin to regulate emotions and behavior
    Greater ability to problem solve, conceptualize categories, and manage simple representational abstractions
    For example: “If you have two cookies and I give you three more, how many do you have altogether?”
    The fingers represent the cookies, a child doesn’t actually have to hold two and then three cookies.
  • Learning: like a sponge
    Five and six year olds have almost twice as many neural connections in some areas of the brain as adults
    Kindergarten brains have greater physiological “plasticity” and therefore a high capacity for new learning
    Young children really do have minds that absorb things like a sponge
  • Learning: planning and memory
    The average adult can hold 5-7 things in her working memory
    That’s why our phone numbers are 7 digits long plus an area code
    Over the course of the Kindergarten year, most children grow to be able to retain 3 things in their working memory
  • Learning
    Three patterns that demonstrate an increasing ability to plan, recall, and abstract information during the course of the kindergarten year
  • Teaching & Learning: the kindergarten caveat
    Aside from the fact that all people learn in different ways at different times, consider that some children enter kindergarten having just turned 5, others will turn 6 within weeks of beginning their kinder year…
    And consider what you now know about the massive changes that are occurring in kindergarteners’ minds and bodies…
    Age + Time = an enormous range of cognitive, physical, emotional, social, behavioral states all interacting with each other
    This developmental diversity makes teaching and learning in kindergarten unique among the grades, uniquely challenging
  • Learning how to teach
    I am still learning how to teach the way they learn
    Is that normal or is that a sign of a developmental delay?
    Am I lowering my expectations for children’s learning by incorrectly interpreting a developmental stage?
    What’s the right way to teach this child?
  • Writing: let me show you
    Writing offers a unique window into the kindergarten mind
    Demonstrates growth over time
    Physical evidence of developmental stage
  • Learning developmentally
    Recall that children in kindergarten can retain about 3 things in their working memory.
    Consider how challenging this makes the writing process
    For example…
  • Things you need to know to write the word “cat”
    What is the first sound in that word?
    What is the name of the letter makes that sound?
    What does that letter look like?
    How do I make that letter?
    How do I hold my pencil?
    Where do I write on the paper?
    Do I write from right to left or the other way?
    Oh no! My paper is sliding away from me…
    What word am I writing again?
    What sound comes next?
    And we always ask our writers to draw what they are writing about:
    What does a cat look like?
    How do I draw a cat?
  • Let’s play!
    Let’s get in our play stance: I want you to take a risk exploring a child’s mind and abilities, remember this is a safe place, use your imagination!
    I’m going to show you two images of kindergarten writing and help you interpret what you see
    Then I’m going to show you a third example and ask you to interpret what you see
    Think about what I’ve told you about kindergarten minds
  • What do you see?How do you interpret it?
  • What do you see?How do you interpret it?
  • What do you see?How do you interpret it? (T-P-S)
  • The End
    “We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”from Little Gidding by T. S. Eliot